Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Budget 07: Report from the Front Lines

Sorry for the radio silence. Today I went to Columbus with the intention of testifying before the House Finance and Appropriations Committee regarding the education components in the budget bill. I did not get to testify, in part because the Statehouse was evacuated due to a small electrical fire. That happened as people were queuing up to get on the list to testify.

A half hour or so later, we got back into the building and again clamored to get signed up. I did so, sat down to hear almost five hours of testimony and did not get called before the Committee broke for the day at 5:30.

A few preliminary observations before I go pour myself into bed for the night. First off, it’s not at all clear why today happened at all. Last week, the Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education heard budget testimony. Generally the Committee only hears testimony after the Subcommittees have submitted reports, and then they hear comments from witnesses before the Subcommittee about that report. This was an “education day” scheduled last week after the Subcommittee hearings and as of now, the subcommittee hasn’t reported recommendations.

The charter and voucher people are out in force. They had parents, teachers and students testifying last week and turned them out in force again today.

By and large the panel was quiet. They were about getting witnesses on and off – something like thirty in the five hours. They also overall were pretty fair about who got on. The mix of traditional school folks and charter/voucher advocates was fairly balanced.


Eric said...


You've described one aspect of state government where lobbyists excel. How many of the reports and testimony are online? How can those of us who keep in touch locally be part of the state picture?

Consider the situation in Wisconsin: The Madison, WI superintendent claims his district deserves Reading First funding because its program reduces the achievement gap in reading. His US House Representative and US Senators call on US Dept of Ed for an explanation; Madison's program gets featured in a report to state government on effective education.

Only when the NY Times parrots Madison's claims does a blogger in PA check the district's results and discovers that, rather than remedying the effects of past discrimination, the Madison schools appear to perpetuate the effects of past discrimination.

Imagine bloggers uncover $1B in fraud, waste, and abuse in public ed. Imagine nothing happens and lobbyists continue to mediate access to state government. Could it happen in Ohio?